Darrell Issa Goes Postal, Job-Killing Retiree Bill Moves to the States

Save America's Postal Service Darrell Issa is going postal. In the name of "Saving the Post Office," the head of the House Government Oversight Committee is ready to knock off 200,000 jobs and put the U.S. Postal Service, founded in 1775, on the path to oblivion. President Obama's rescue plan is only slightly better -- 80,000 people might lose their jobs.

The bipartisan eagerness to sink the Postal Service has Ben Franklin, the first Postmaster General under the Continental Congress, rolling in his grave.

The Original Job Creator

For me, the attack on the post office is personal. My daughter wouldn't be around if my father hadn't met my mom while working at Philadelphia's central post office in the depths of the last Great Depression. Back in the dark days of the 1930's, Postal Service jobs kept millions of extended families and communities afloat.

With 570,000 good postal jobs in America, things are not so different today. The Postal Service not only provides secure high-wage jobs, it is key to providing high-quality, low-cost services to hundreds of thousands of businesses across America.

"We are the original 'job creators'," says Ron Berg proudly, a Wisconsin postal worker who delivers to 497 small businesses and homes rain or shine.

So why is Issa threatening to reopen collective bargaining agreements to allow for massive layoffs at the worst possible time, and create a special commission to close thousands of delivery centers and post offices across the nation? When you plant a poison pill, you have to convince people to swallow.

The Poison Pill

Keep in mind that the Postal Service does not take one dime of taxpayer money. It is an independent agency authorized by the U.S. Constitution. The 2008 Wall Street economic meltdown has hurt. Less economic activity in America means less mail. Email and Facebook have taken a toll as well. But the post office could weather these hard times if it were not for a poison pill passed by a lame-duck Republican Congress in 2006.

The so-called "Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006" required the Postal Service to pre-fund healthcare benefits of future retirees, a 75-year liability over a 10-year period. Yup, that's right -- prepayment for postal employees that have not even been born yet. Contrary to what Issa claims, the Postal Service is the only federal agency or private business under this onerous obligation.

The requirement costs the Postal Services $5.5 billion a year, about the amount the economic downturn is costing the post office. Without the prefunding requirement, the Postal Service would have broken even financially despite mail volume declines. With it, however, the Postal Service is moving toward default -- a deliberately manufactured crisis that could give the privatizers and profiteers in Congress an opportunity to "restructure" America's oldest independent public service.

Shock Doctrine for the USPS

Creating a crisis to kill a public service is classic "shock doctrine," a trick learned from old Milton Friedman who saw every economic crisis, real or manufactured, as an "opportunity" to advance a free-market, privatization agenda.

"We are not broke. This is a crisis created by powerful politicians who want to privatize the Postal Service. We will hear the word 'bailout' but I say bull," says postal carrier Berg. Or as consumer advocate Ralph Nader puts it: "The post office is being pushed to the cliff, into the abyss. The ultimate goal is shrinkage -- continual shrinkage and private businesses pick up the cream."

Private mail carriers only deliver to a fraction of the American population, at a higher cost. The small West Virginia town of West Liberty is so desperate to keep its post office open, that it recently bought the post office building and offered the U.S. Postal Service a free lease.

Idea Spreads to the States

Recently introduced, Wisconsin Assembly Bill 219 would apply similar prepayment provisions to local governments, cities, villages, towns, counties, and school districts who dare to provide post-retirement health care benefits for their employees. Hitting at a time when the economy is still staggering, the bill seems designed to force localities to give up these benefits altogether.

"This is an idea cooked up outside of Wisconsin. I don't know whether it is the Tea Party or ALEC the American Legislative Exchange Council, but it is an idea with no local or organizational support," said Mark Pocan, a Wisconsin state legislator preparing to run for Congress in 2012. Senator Leah Vukmir, a long time ALEC member, is the Senate chief sponsor of the bill.

This week postal workers staged nearly 500 rallies throughout the nation to draw attention to the issue and protest Issa's plan to gut services and kill jobs. The unions are supporting Rep. Stephen Lynch's bill, H.R. 1351, which does not solve all the problems but which allows the Postal Service to claw back some of these prepayment from the U.S. Treasury.

Postal Service workers know they are in the battle to defend low-cost universal service for millions of small businesses and families. I have no doubt whose side Ben Franklin would be on.

Mary Bottari

Mary Bottari is a reporter for the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD). She helped launch CMD's award-winning ALEC Exposed investigation and is a two-time recipient of the Sidney Prize for public interest journalism from the Sidney Hillman Foundation.


The scary part: Issa is wealthy enough to pursue his own agenda. He is not worried about what his constituents think. He doesn't need contributions to fund his campaign. If he succeeds in breaking up the postal service he will be looking at other federal agencies as well. He is a hatchet man.

It is totally understandable that the people who helped create this problem are the very people demonizing those who want to help this floundering enterprise. If you don't want the life jacket, then sink with the ship.

Government is proposing term limits on the American worker!!!!! We need term limits on the politicians!!!! They are saying to the Postal workers that you are no longer productive after "x" amount of years and at a certain age. You are to be put out to pasture!!!! According to Issa and his boys. Why is it that we the workers are giving up pay, benefits and now the ability to possess gainful employment. When will "ALL AMERICANS" sacrifice??? These so-called leaders need to lead and not sacrifice the "OUR" American dream for their gain...... Watch in the coming years what politicians will become and the where the elite will be in relation to what was once the middle class... Read this story and understand that they destroyed the USPS and now, with full knowledge are attempting to destroy the states also!!!!

I agree completely. Try telling a veteran he has to retire. Smells like an age discrimination class action lawsuit. All these laid off workers collecting unemployment waiting for their day in court!

The USPS has been around for how many hundred years? Surely Mr. Franklin knew what he was doing when he established a responsible group of people to handle the important thing we call "the mail". I am a window clerk and do you know how many people are so appreciative that we are here?? And do you know how much is involved in the mail delivery process? I accept mail, plenty of it, and the people who entrust their packages and mail with me are counting on it getting where it is destined to go. I hear every day how the USPS is so much cheaper than FedEx and UPS. They are grateful for us. The people who ship though Ebay are grateful, businesses are grateful, people who have to return things they buy are grateful. And the people who work the machines, and those machines are remarkable I might add, as well as the mail carriers who deliver the mail, and the facilities and the vehicles - do people really understand all that is involved and the costs involved? We report an income in spite of these expenditures but the yearly pre-funding of 5.5 billion dollars is completely unnecessary and an unrealistic obligation of WHO???? Answer me that people in Congress who don't want to address this issue, but instead want to lay off our valuable employees and cut our incomes and benefits. We perform a valuable service, one that the American as well as international people (we DO deliver mail from other countries) depend on us to perform. This pre-funded money is no where to be seen...isn't that illegal people of Congress? Tell us where that money is and tell us why you want us to keep giving it to you. And then leave us alone to do our business. What would YOU do without us?

As quoted: " The republican strategy is clear" Reduced the postal service in your community, reduce and delay service,remove the Postoffice from our everyday lives" The UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE is what binds this country together. Provide private service supplied by profit making firms. What will it cost to mail a letter in the future from FL. to HI $5.00? Issa is just out for greed.. to line is pockets. He is not helping the American people at all . There are people out in the middle of nowhere who rely on the UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE 6 days a week. Visit saveamericaspostalservice for the latest news on how you can help SAVE OUR NATIONAL TREASURE THE UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE

Is the unemployment rate in this country not high enough for Issa? If you put these people out of jobs and they cannot find another job the rate increases. He wants to cut salaries, jobs, number of days mail is delivered. This guy lives in a cave. He says he wants to save the government money. Surprise the Post Office does not get any money from the Federal Governmnt it gets its money from the sale of stamps and services. If he was really serious about saving the government money why doesnt he take a cut in pay along with the other rich republicans in office. He wont because its another ploy by the republicans to do away with the middle class worker. They only want two classes of people in this country the rich and the poor and by putting postal workers out of jobs they increase the poor working class. Issa needs to find something else to do with all his spare time and leave the post office and its employees alone.